Who are the multitude?
"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "(Rev. 7:13, 14)
are these people?" — interesting question. Do you remember a group who
had been given white robes? I've already suggested that the multitude is
the souls we saw under the altar (6:9).
They had been told to wait for their brethren to be completed (or perfected).
Here again are the same two groups: the multitude and their now prepared
brethren, the 144,000.
The fact that "one of the elders" asked the question and John expected him to know the answer is in harmony with our identification of the elders as representatives of the righteous to be raised at Christ's coming. They would understand the tribulation the multitude had experienced. (I also suggested that the four living creatures were heavenly representatives of the completed ones, the 144,000.)
The great tribulation which the multitude came out of we identified as the persecution of the righteous in Matt. 24. We also considered it to be the oppression of the 1260 "days" of Rev. 12 — the time the woman (God's true people) were in the wilderness of the Middle Ages. Dan. 7:25 refers to the same time period.
This identification is different from some popular ideas. Let's put it into perspective a little. I believe the 144,000 to represent the righteous who live on the earth during the final testing time — those who were victorious over the beast (Rev. 15:2b). The multitude then includes righteous people who died before that time. Relating to the altar seen at the opening of the fifth seal, these two groups are the ones yet to be perfected and the souls asking, How long? In general terms they are the end-time purified people of God and the righteous in the long era beginning with the early church. Revelation 13 distinguishes between the two eras.
While seeing these group distinctions, recognize that all the righteous dead, beginning with Abel, will be judged before their resurrection, so this class is a little broader than the ones who came out of the tribulation of the time of the apostate church. We also recognize that much of the description of the multitude in chapter 7 also describes the 144,000 who will have their own "great tribulation."
|Dead righteous given white robes, 6:11||Living righteous sealed, 7:4||Heaven silent (time of Jacob's trouble) then censor thrown down (time of trouble for wicked) 8:1, 5|
|Multitude||144,000||Righteous are ready|
|Judgment of righteous dead begins||Judgment of righteous living as they are sealed||Judgment ends (no mediator in heaven)|
Washing their own robes
". . . These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:14)
Out of great tribulation
The multitude have come out of great tribulation. I see this as the tribulation spoken of by Matthew mt2421. and not as the time of trouble of Dan. 12:1. The latter is initiated at the very end of time when probation is closed and Christ comes to punish the wicked. Tribulation is seen several times in Matt. 24, but the primary application is the 1260 days of persecution 1305a. In contrast, the 144,000 are sealed to stand in the last great conflict, the time of trouble 0703a.
Washed their own
Now notice, in our passage, that the multitude washed their own robes. Sounds like righteousness by works. But what cleansing agent did they apply to their spotted robes to make them clean? Blood from the Lamb! Some feel that Jesus does it all for us. Of course in a way He does. Pure righteousness is only His righteousness in us. No other name and no other blood can make us clean. But we must apply that blood. As Paul said we must "work out" our own salvation ph0212f. We must claim the promise, roll up our selves, and do the washing. This means tough decisions to step out and act on God's claims on our lives, not on how we feel.
So do we get credit for our good scrubbing effort? Not at all, because He supplies the strength (John 1:12; Rom. 8:3, 4) and the cleansing agent. In that sense He cleanses us. He works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). By grace, He provides forgiveness and the power to stand before the throne, but we must agree to do the standing. The scrubbing work is ours. We must choose to accept strength from Him and then put it to work. The same faithful ones are pictured in Rev. 12:11. Overcoming meant loving not their lives "unto the death." They chose death rather than to deny the way they knew to be right. That required superhuman strength and One who was more than human had provided it.
To be taken to heaven without a pure heart (Matt. 5:8) would be to violate our free choice. To exercise choice for heaven means applying the strength God gives. It is more than saying special words. I remember when my parents said they would buy a musical instrument and provide lessons. I decided to learn the flute, but no flute was available (or maybe no money for it) so I started lessons on my mother's violin. Soon a flute was found and Mother asked if I was ready to switch to it. I thought adding would be better than switching but such was not an option. I didn't want to give up the violin. My wanting the flute was not enough to make me a flutist. I had to want it more than I wanted the violin. I couldn't just say, I choose the flute, and become a flute player while spending all my available time on the violin. The reality of my choice was demonstrated by my actions. Image from Corel.
"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:3-6).
today feel that their perverted appetite, or their temper, or their hatred
of certain people, or their pride, cannot be given up. They look to their
heredity and to their natural tendencies and say, I can't be clean. They
believe that God will flip a switch and turn off all these things when
they go to heaven. But He does not make us clean at His coming.
He finds us that way (2
Peter 3:14). The unrighteous will remain unrighteous and the righteous,
righteous (Rev. 22:11,
12). On our own, we can't be clean (Jer.
13:23), but with Christ all things are possible (Matt.
We all need His grace and cleansing power in our lives. What a joy to stand firm in Christ.
How is washing robes related to the tribulation?
"These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:14)
Perhaps the glimpse of the multitude washing their own robes is to remind us of something about them. They did their own washing instead of sending their robes out to the town laundry. During the tribulation of the middle ages, those who stood for truth opposed a religious power that claimed to do both the divine and the human parts of the application of Christ's blood for salvation. The divine part is Christ's administration of His blood in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:1, 2; 9:2-15) as we pray for forgiveness. And the human part — our washing of our garments of character — is our acceptance of that blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) as, in His strength, we will and do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12, 13). The divine part has been replaced by the false religion in pretending to do Christ's work of mediation -- priests pronouncing forgiveness for sin (1 Tim 2:5) — and the human part is the substitution of ceremonies and penance for our simple acceptance and application of Christ's blood for cleansing our characters — for abiding in Him and practicing His righteousness in our lives. (1 John 2:28, 29; 3:24).
We have already discussed the timing of the tribulation in Matt. 24 Mt24. Here are a few texts for clarification, It was on the verge of beginning, already in the days of the apostles.
children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall
come, even now are there many antichrists. . . ." (1 John 2:18).
"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 2:29, 30).
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." (2 Thess. 2:7-9). Remember that the pagan power which opposed the early Christians also opposed their false teachers.
What a privilege
to be clean in Christ! I need that power every day.
Clean robes, perfection in Christ
We have looked at 2 Peter 3:14 relating to how Jesus finds us at His coming:
beloved, seeing that ye look for such things [heavens melting at Christ's
coming], be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot,
and blameless." (2 Peter 3:14).
This appears to be an impossible assignment. Notice that the verse points out two qualifications we need. We must be perfectly forgiven (blameless), and we must be without spot (have clean robes of character) — justified and sanctified. Remembering that the development of Christian character is a growth process (2 Peter 3:18) helps us understand what Jesus means by being perfect (Matt. 5:48):
the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear,
after that the full corn in the ear." (Mark 4:28).
A young plant is not expected to pop through the ground with a full head of grain. The perfection that God requires is the acceptance of His grace in and for us as, day by day, we grow in Him. The perfect behavior of a child would be inadequate for those of us who carry the responsibilities of adulthood. God expects us to live according to the light we have received or have had opportunity to receive.
Then we remember, too, that God would not ask us to do something that we could not do in His strength. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13).
What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus, my Jesus!
What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus, my Lord!